Well, we’ve finally got an explanation for that spooky YouTube channel, the Pronunciation Book. It wasn’t counting down to a coup, or a global extinction event, or even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It was a piece of performance art all along. The big reveal? It’s controlled by the team behind Horse_ebooks–not a shadowy Russian at all, but a BuzzFeed employee and a former Howcast VP.
Cue collective Internet brick-shitting.
The news appeared on the New Yorker‘s website this morning:
The creators of the two accounts, Jacob Bakkila and Thomas Bender, will prove that they are indeed human, appearing in a performance that is the final flourish in this suite of conceptual-art pieces, weaving together Horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book. They will also launch the next installment of the project, a choose-your-own-adventure interactive-video piece called Bear Stearns Bravo.
Last year, Gawker’s Adrian Chen tracked down the man
supposedly apparently originally responsible for the account, a Russian programmer named Alexei Kuznetzsov. That didn’t dispel the appeal, though. Maybe someone was giving the algorithm a little nudge every now and then, but hey, if that person is a mysterious Russian, all the better.
Turns out that was bullshit, though! According to the New York Times, Mr. Bakkila took over the handle in 2011, which means it’s been his handiwork basically the entire time Twitter’s been obsessed with it. “The idea was to perform as a machine,” he told the Times. In other words, everyone fell in love with a lie. So they’re pissed:
The Internet’s collective disappointment can be chocked up to its fierce desire to believe in the charming oddity of Horse_ebooks. Let’s face it–the bronies are entertaining and the MRAs are infuriating, but there’s so little truly random weirdness left on the Internet. Reddit’s like a giant filter feeding content to Gawker/BuzzFeed, and hell, even 4Chan feels a tired these days. Half of it’s just viral videos ginned up by Jimmy Kimmel or stupid attempts by brands to insert themselves into the “conversation.”
Misters Bakkila and Bender exploited our obsession with weirdness for the sake of weirdness and pulled off the ultimate Weird Twitter troll. Calling it art and announcing a gallery show made it somehow more intolerable, like the whole time they’d just been snickering at Twitter’s genuine love. Handing the scoop to the New Yorker felt like the final fuck you to the people who had rallied around the handle; the “artists” didn’t want the news broken by Mr. Chen or even BuzzFeed, but a publication deeply disconnected from the bizarro depths of the Internet. And not just the New Yorker–Susan Orlean!
There’s only one thing that could even the cosmic scales: If Brit Morin turned out to be an algorithm.